Friday, May 28, 2010

Note on Martin Gardner

I noticed Martin Gardner's obituary in the NY Times this week and since I've written about his character and career assassination of Korzybski and since he included a letter by me in one of his books (yeah, Martin and I had a little 'love' spat going), I figured I would have to write something here. But I simply haven't had time (until now) in a very stressful and busy week. (It may have been stressful for Martin too, but I'm sure he's not too busy now.)

Any way in the meantime, here's a nice post by TravelMarx, a review of Gardner's first book Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science

TravelMarx qualifies as one of the many reasonable and well-intentioned people (so-called skeptics) who were misled by Gardner's writings. Certainly misled about Korzybski. And God knows what else. Gardner certainly defamed and did great harm to the reputation of an important thinker. In my article "In The Name of Skepticism: Martin Gardner's Misrepresentations of General Semantics" I document in detail Gardner's mistakes, misrepresentations, exaggerations, and yes, down-right lies. He wasn't a fool. He had to realize that he was telling some real stretchers, as Mark Twain used to put it. Here's the link to the article published in the General Semantics Bulletin in 2004: "In The Name of Skepticism: Martin Gardner's Misrepresentations of General Semantics"

When I first wrote the article, I offered it to Michael Shermer the Editor of Skeptic magazine, for publication. He told me that Korzybski and General Semantics are dead issues. Well I don't think so. And I don't think that ignoring my well-documented and well-argued case for Gardner's serious lack of skepticism says very much for those who identify themselves as 'skeptics' and embrace Gardner and his methods. I don't deny that Gardner wrote and did many good things. But my article gets to the root of some serious rot at the core of the skeptic movement and it would be a healthy thing for leaders and followers of that movement to fess up to Gardner's serious mistakes. It remains an open question for me, who else if anyone did Gardner malign in his lifelong campaign 'in the name of science?'

Thursday, May 27, 2010

From The Stray Thought Bin - 'Committment'

Anthropologist Margaret Mead is said to have said,
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”
Well, I don't know if that's the only thing.
I would certainly add that a small group of committed people with an inadequate grasp of what's going on, can thoughtfully and royally foul things up beyond all recognition.

'Words, Music, Movement'

"The same idea can be expressed in words, in music, in movement"

There are extraordinary people who can conceive an idea in more than one kind of symbolic ingredient or "letters" and can even choose their own formulation, in whatever com­prehensive structure they feel at ease with, whether words, numbers, colors, tones, or whatever.

Rabbi Nachman of Breslav is said to have declared that if people were able really to hear his teaching, the melody as well as the words, the dance of it, they would be released from the bondage of reality.

In other words, the same idea can be expressed in words, in music, in movement.

There is a basic ground for correspondence of things, a fundamental unity behind the variety of modes of expression or symbols.
–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From In the Beginning, p. 188, by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

From The Stray Thought Bin - Postponing Procrastination

When I delay doing something I 'postpone' it. When I do it now, am I 'poning' it? If I'm not procrastinating, am I 'crastinating'? Hmm, I think I'm having a Carlinian moment.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Quote of the Day - Folly

"A person does not commit a transgression unless a spirit of folly enters into him."
—Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sotah

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Steinbeck on Consciousness of Abstracting

From The Log From The Sea Of Cortez:
The safety-valve of all speculation is: It might be so. And as long as the might remains, a variable deeply understood, then speculation does not easily become dogma, but remains the fluid creative thing it might be. Thus, a valid painter, letting color and line, observed, sift into his eyes, up the nerve trunks, and mix well with his experience before it flows down his hand to the canvas, has made his painting say, "It might be so." Perhaps his critic, being not so honest and not so wise, will say, "It is not so. The picture is damned." If this critic could say, "It is not so with me, but that might be because my mind and experience are not identical with those of the painter," that critic would be the better critic for it, just as that painter is a better painter for knowing he himself is in the pigment.

We tried always to understand that the reality we observed was partly us; the speculation, our product. And yet if somehow, "The law of thought must be the law of things," one can find an index of reality even in insanity. [p. 265, Viking Press, 1951]

Korzybski and Psychedelia - The 13th Floor Elevators*

They came out of the heart of Texas inspired by Korzybski and L.S.D—one of the first of the psychedelic rock bands of the 1960s. They had a singer Roky Erickson, who had the vocal range of a Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and Mick Jagger rolled-into-one. Tommy Hall, who—inspired by his study of Nietzsche, Gurdjieff, Korzybski, and others—wrote many of the lyrics, played an amplified jug (that strange rhythmical 'tooka-tooka-tooka' sound you can hear in the background).

Here's a quote from the liner notes—that Tommy Hall wrote—from their first album "The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators":
"Since Aristotle, man has organized his knowledge vertically in separate and unrelated groups -- Science, Religion, Sex, Relaxation, Work etc. The main emphasis in his language, his system of storing knowledge, has been on the identification of objects rather than on the relationships between objects. He is now forced to use his tools of reasoning separately and for one situation at a time. Had man been able to see past this hypnotic way of thinking, to distrust it (as did Einstein), and to resystematize his knowledge so that it would all be related horizontally, he would now enjoy the perfect sanity which comes from being able to deal with his life in its entirety.
Recently, it has become possible for man to chemically alter his mental state and thus alter his point of view (that is, his own basic relation with the outside world which determines how he stores his information). He can restructure his thinking and change his language so that his thoughts bear more relation to his life and his problems, therefore approaching them more sanely. It is this quest for pure sanity that forms the basis of the songs on this album

Friday, May 7, 2010

From The Stray Thought Bin - 'Progress'

It will be a big step toward human progress to learn how not to become victims of human progress.